President’s Letter

Dear Colleagues and Visitors,

Respect, responsiveness, equity, trust, and interdependence guide us at the SH Cowell Foundation. From these values we navigate toward our vision of communities across northern and central California where people from all sectors—residents, public and non-profit service providers, educators, and civic leaders—work together to enlarge opportunities and support positive, equitable outcomes for children and their families. Since 2002, we have called this work “place-based complementary grantmaking.” A note about this work: Cowell doesn’t do the hardest or most important part of it. Our grantees and their communities do. But for our part, Cowell’s board and staff must balance continuity against change. With that background, I’m pleased to present details about our new strategic plan.

The plan maps strategic priorities for 10 more years of place-based complementary grantmaking, so it leans toward continuity. It reflects 18 months of assessment and refinement by our staff and board. That assessment was guided by 75 of our grantee leaders and their community partners. We are grateful to these colleagues who provided feedback and insight, even as they responded to a global pandemic, economic upheaval, and an overdue reckoning with the racialized inequities that these crises laid bare. Our grantees’ engagement with these complex challenges, and their candor about how we at Cowell can help in their communities, drove the revised strategic plan and the changes that will guide our grantmaking.

This new website also reflects both continuity and change. If you are revisiting the site, you may notice beautiful new pictures of our grantees and communities as well as easier navigation to information about our work. I hope you will find that our core values, and especially our commitment to racial equity, are explicit – not only in the sections on the Foundation’s mission and vision, but also how we describe our grant programs, funding guidelines, and ways of working with grantees. I hope you see, as well, what we affirm: our belief in trust-based philanthropy, our desire to listen, and our intention to enter and sustain relationships with grantees and communities.

I hope you will explore our website and consider if our approach may be a match for your organization and community. Through more than 20 years making place-based grants across northern and central California, we have learned that vital work happens everywhere, and extraordinary opportunities can emerge anywhere. As we continue learning and responding, I hope you will reach out to us.



Ann Alpers